Episode 48:

Why Do Nurses Get Injured?

In this episode, we are going to update you on the Coronavirus. We are also going to address the injuries nurses get and how to prevent injuries.




Coronavirus, What do we know so far?

A novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), is not that same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Where did it come from: Public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of the COVID-19 Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats, and bats. Analysis of the genetic tree of this virus is ongoing to know the specific source of the virus. SARS, another coronavirus that emerged to infect people, came from civet cats, while MERS, another coronavirus that emerged to infect people, came from camels. Many of those initially infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the center of the Chinese city, Wuhan.

Transmission: Most often, spread from person-to-person happens among close contacts (about 6 feet). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It’s currently unclear if a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

Signs: For confirmed COVID-19 infections, reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • CDC believes at this time that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses.
  • Can lead to pneumonia, a cascade of events is similar to other respiratory infections

Treatment: Treatment goals are to treat the symptoms, no cure or specific treatment is available.



Timeline of the virus



Common nursing injuries; how to not be part of the statistics

All nonfatal occupational injury and illness data presented in this article come from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employers report, on an annual basis, injury and illness data for approximately 230,000 establishments in private industry and state and local government.

  • Keep in mind it takes years to gather and decern the results of the surveys

In 2016, workplace hazards for RNs resulted in 19,790 nonfatal injuries and illnesses that required at least 1 day away from work, at an incidence rate of 104.2 cases per 10,000 full-time workers (private industry). This stat is significantly greater than the rate for all occupations (91.7 cases per 10,000 workers).

While 61%of all RNs work in hospitals, 74.1% percent of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses to RNs in 2016 occurred in hospitals. This difference reflects that there are more RN injuries in hospitals than in all other industries.

Nurses ages 45 to 54 accounted for 27.0 percent of all injuries and illnesses. The longer you work in the field the higher the probability of injury.

  • Below outline the breakdown of 19,079 injuries in 2016.²
Length of service with employer Number of injuries and illnesses
Less than 3 months 770
3 months to 11 months 2,770
1 year to 5 years 6,460
More than 5 years 9,580

Most common causes of injury to nurses

RNs stand and move throughout the day, have regular contacts with patients, and are often required to lift patients. As a result, overexertion and bodily reaction was the most prevalent event leading to occupational injuries and illnesses to RNs, accounting for 45.6 percent of all cases within the occupation in 2016. The causes of this event are excessive physical effort, bending, twisting, lifting, and repetitive motion. Falls, slips, and trips represented the next most common event, accounting for 25.0 percent of all injuries and illnesses occurring to RNs.² Violence and other injuries by persons or animals accounted for about 12.2 percent of all cases.

  • While violent events accounted for only 12.2 percent of all injuries to RNs in 2016, the incidence rate—12.7 cases per 10,000 full-time workers—was approximately 3 times greater than the rate of violent events for all occupations (3.8 cases per 10,000 workers).
Event/exposure RN Other occupations
Overexertion and bodily reaction 45.6 33.7
Falls, slips, and trips 25 25.7
Violence and other injuries by persons or animals 12.2 4.2
Contacts with objects or equipment 9.8 26.1
Transportation incidents 3.8 5.2
Exposure to substances or environment 3.3 4.3
others 0.3 0.7
Fire and explosion 0 0.2

Injury Prevention

Overexertion or putting too much stress on your joints – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that nurses and nurse assistants face an especially high risk of suffering musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). In fact, the risk is seven times higher than the risk faced by workers in other fields. These injuries can come from moving or repositioning patients, heavy lifting or repeatedly doing the same tasks. 

  1. Stay in shape: the number one way of preventing injuries is to have good muscle. Nurses who maintain muscle strength, flexibility and normal weight are less likely to get hurt. Health.gov recommends back exercising and stretching at least twice a week. This also includes eating properly.
  2. Good body mechanics: we’ve all heard of bend your knees and keep your back straight. This way, your leg muscles will do most of the work. Do you know how that looks like? I’m a visual learner if you just youtube proper back mechanics. This is also important when turning a patient.
  3. Use your lifts: they aren’t always available but take the time to use them when you can. I know young nurses are prone to not using them but if you’re middle-aged you should definitely grab that lift or at least some help.
  4. Proper shoes: Prolonged standing and walking on hard floors puts stress on the back. Comfortable shoes that are good shock absorbers can help. Even at home sometimes my feet hurt so I wear slippers. You need shoes that can keep you balanced. Devote a pair just to work and invest some good money.
  5. Acute before chronic: if you do hurt your back you need to get help asap. Sometimes we are able to walk it off and it goes away however that is not always the case. If that pain keeps coming back it may be time to see a chiropractor or even your primary.

Violence in the workplace

Workplace violence – Assaults against nurses are far too common. A nurse can be victimized by patients or by patients’ family members. Patients suffering from dementia may strike out violently against a nurse. Nurses who work in clinics and hospitals are also in danger of becoming victims. Criminals may come in looking for drugs or violent offenders can be taken to the hospital for treatment.

  1. Take precautions: stay at least 1 arm’s length away from someone that you are unsure of. Keep safety hazards out of the patient’s reach. Restraints are an option and the behavioral response team is at your disposal at some facilities. Don’t go in alone if you aren’t sure and don’t close the door behind you.
  2. Report: You can’t break the cycle if you don’t let someone know whats going on. Workplace violence is the number 1 unreported incident in nursing. Do not let anyone belittle you, remember if they’ve done it to you they most likely have done it before.


Fall injuries – Clinics and hospital rooms can be busy places. Liquids or other slippery items can fall on the floor and not get cleaned up immediately. As a result, nurses are frequently injured in slip-and-fall accidents.

  1. Wear good shoes: you need shoes with a good grip not only for your back but to also prevent you from falling or slipping.
  2. Clean room: organize the room, some patients have a lot of things, make sure their stuff isn’t in your way. Also, place the IV pole or tube feed pole in a proper area so you aren’t stumbling on it. Wipe up anything you have spilled that way when you come back you won’t fall or the next nurse.

Needle Sticks

Needles – Nurses routinely use needles to draw blood or administer medication.  Puncturing the skin with a needle or other sharp metal instrument can also be dangerous if working with contaminated material that could spread disease. 

  • Sharps container: put your supplies in the sharps container, that’s why it’s there. Also, make sure you empty it when it is full!
  • Don’t rush: Many needle sticks happen because you are in a rush. Take your time, yea you’ve given an insulin shit 685 times, this might be the time you give yourself one by accident.


What If You Are a Nurse Who Was Hurt?

If you are a nurse who was hurt on the job, you have many different legal options: 

  • You can file a PA workers’ comp claim – You can make a claim with the hospital or clinic’s workers’ compensation insurer. (Many large hospitals are self-insured). You can have your medical bills covered. A portion of any wages you lose while recovering can also be replaced. You won’t have to prove your employer was negligent or that dangerous conditions led to your injury. You are eligible for workers’ comp in Pennsylvania regardless of who is at fault.
  • You can file a personal injury claim – Under PA law, you cannot sue your employer for an on-the-job injury if you receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, if you get hurt because of someone besides your employer or a co-worker, you can file a lawsuit for damages that workers’ comp does not cover, such as pain and suffering. For example, if you are a nurse who was injured due to a defective device you were using at the hospital, you could possibly sue the manufacturer of that device.

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